Davie Robertson,
Star o' the Bar
(Greentrax, 2003)

Star o' the Bar is certainly Scottish and very much contemporary. It has 15 original songs from the pen of Davie Robertson and therein lies both its weakness and its strength.

We all love to hear familiar material, despite our protests at wanting innovation. If you pick up this album you will be unlikely to recognise a single track, but replace it at your peril. These are gems.

Robertson was born in 1945 and spent most of his life in the Scottish village with the fabulous name of Longniddry. Writing that as your address must bring out a spirit of humour and literacy. He characterises his songs as "simple observations of the human condition" and, like his fellow Scot Billy Connolly, this brings to the world a combination of humour and pathos that is not easily forgotten.

He opens the CD with "The Hanky," which is not a song for the faint stomached or to enjoy at the dinner table. But it is real. A very beautiful and heartfelt song is "The Cruel and Hungry Sea." With a minimal pipe backing, he gives us a picture of those seeking a living from the sea and how both the politics and the sea which are betraying them are infested with dinghies and leisure sailors.

Political correctness is not his forte. "Crime and Punishment" is an epic played out at the pearly gates. He refers to the many sinners allowed in until St. Peter meets a smoker. Contrast that with the evocative "Quiet October Hills" before returning to the bawdy "Noran Water -- The Inside Story."

There is not a dud tune on this entire album. The subjects range from political comment to traditional comic songs. Sometimes you might require a dialect glossary, but you will enjoy the sentiments in any case. There is a packed booklet of lyrics to assist in your enjoyment.

One piece of advice -- the words can be a bit raw so maybe it's not a gift for the maiden aunt -- but then again, why not, they have a sense of humour, too.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 5 June 2004